1. "Turkish rights group seeks protest violence probe", a Turkish rights group called on Wednesday for a probe into what it called excessive use of force by police in breaking up protests marking the sixth anniversary of Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan's capture. (..) Local police said they were investigating the death from apparent gunshot wounds of a 19-year-old man in the southern port city of Mersin, where protesters threw rocks at police. There were also smaller clashes between police and demonstrators in the Aegean city of Izmir and the eastern town of Van.
2. "A test for Turkey", the decision of the European Union to start negotiations on Turkey's accession in October 2005 is an enormous achievement both for the European Union and for Turkey under the leadership of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
3. "Turkey falls short of upholding minorities' rights", ECRI report says gaps remain in legislation in regards to racism and racial discrimination.
4. "Niece of jailed Kurdish rebel leader Ocalan deported from France to Italy", a niece of Abdullah Ocalan, the Kurdish rebel leader jailed in Turkey, was deported from France to Italy on Wednesday to pursue an asylum request there, French officials said.
5. "Ezidi children are forced to study Islam in Turkey", the recent practice of the Turkish state against the Ezidis in Viransehir-Urfa is evidence of the Turanist barbarism experienced in history.
6. "The Other Iraqi Conflict", flying well below the radar of the mainstream media and America's collective consciousness is a conflict brewing in Iraq. It is not the conflict that so dominates our TV screens with endless tape loops of death and destruction. It is taking place in northern Iraq, in the Kurdish autonomous zone known as Kurdistan, and revolves around the future of Iraq's Kurdish population and control of the city of Kirkuk.
7. "Turkey Wary As Kurds Assert Power in Iraq", Turkey, home to the largest Kurdish minority in the world, is watching nervously as Kurds gain unprecedented political power in neighboring Iraq following major gains in that country's elections.
8. "Dangerous Games", Bahman Ghobadis Turtles Can Fly.
1. - Reuters - "Turkish rights group seeks protest
A Turkish rights group called on Wednesday for a probe into what it called excessive use of force by police in breaking up protests marking the sixth anniversary of Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan's capture.
Riot police sprayed tear gas and wielded batons on Tuesday to disperse hundreds of pro-Ocalan protesters in Istanbul and Diyarbakir, the main city in the largely Kurdish southeast. It was not clear how many people were injured or detained.
Local police said they were investigating the death from apparent gunshot wounds of a 19-year-old man in the southern port city of Mersin, where protesters threw rocks at police. There were also smaller clashes between police and demonstrators in the Aegean city of Izmir and the eastern town of Van.
Ocalan, serving a life sentence in a Turkish prison after special forces captured him in Kenya in 1999, still commands support among sections of the Kurdish population.
The Human Rights Association (IHD), a leading Turkish rights group, called on the Interior Ministry and prosecutors to launch administrative and judicial investigations into those responsible for Tuesday's violence.
"We in the Human Rights Association condemn this mode of operation which is based on violence, pressure and obstructing the exercise of rights," IHD Chairman Yusuf Alatas said in a statement.
A police spokesman said police had not yet issued a statement on the allegations of excessive force.
Turkish special forces brought Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) leader Ocalan back to Turkey from Kenya in 1999 after a three-month chase around Europe and Africa.
Before his capture, Ocalan had been searching for a safe haven. Syria threw him out of Damascus under Turkish military pressure in November 1998. He failed to find long-term refuge in Italy, Russia, the Netherlands and other European countries.
He was sentenced to death for high treason on June 29, 1999, but the verdict was later commuted to life imprisonment once Turkey abolished the death penalty as part of a European Union-inspired rights reform drive.
The PKK launched a fight for an ethnic homeland in southeast Turkey in 1984. More than 30,000 have died in two decades of conflict. Violence dwindled after his capture but revived after the group called off a unilateral ceasefire last June.
2. - Jerusaelm Post - "A test for Turkey":
16 February 2005 / by Shlomo Avineri*
For the EU, it signified the ability of European leader's to overcome centuries'-old prejudices, strengthened after 9/11 by an undifferentiated stigmatization of Islam as identified with fundamentalism, if not terrorism. The decision suggests that Turkey will be judged like any other candidate by a set of universal benchmarks, the so-called Copenhagen criteria.
There is no doubt that much has still to be done regarding various aspects of human rights in Turkey, especially when it comes to minority issues. Yet the uncritical, negative attitude to Turkey because it is a non-Christian country has been abandoned and overcome.
This is equally an achievement for Turkey. The Turkish development toward modernization did not start with Kemal Atat rk; it goes back to the 19th century Tanzimat (Reform) movement of the Ottoman Empire. True, this has been arduous and far from successful, but the Turkish road to Europe was not built yesterday.
That a government led by the AK party with its Muslim roots has proceeded in this direction, and has, under Erdogan, even achieved a number of dramatic reforms which eluded earlier governments in Ankara, is testimony to the depth and perseverance of these tendencies in the Turkish political discourse.
Yet recent developments in Iraq seem to cast a shadow on this route and appear to bring back echoes of Turkey's past which one had thought had been abandoned long ago.
The Iraqi elections have greatly encouraged the Kurds in northern Iraq in their claim for a more robust Kurdish autonomy in the three provinces now comprising the Kurdish region. Given the brutality and murderousness to which Iraqi Kurds have been subjected by all Iraqi regimes and not only under Saddam one can well understand this. Equally, one can sympathize with the Iraqi Kurds' claim to have the city of Kirkuk which was "Arabized" under Saddam through a strategy of ethnic cleansing, expulsions and the importation of Arab settlers included in the Kurdish region.
In these elections, the United Kurdish List won 58% of the vote in the Tamin province, which includes Kirkuk, while a list representing the Turkomen minority gained 16%.
Since the elections, the Turkish government has made threatening noises regarding developments in Iraqi Kurdistan, including a somewhat surprising statement by Erdogan that if Kirkuk "explodes" the US will pay the price.
One can well understand Turkey's legitimate concern that development in Iraqi Kurdistan not spillover into Turkey's southeastern provinces with their restive ethnic Kurdish population. But it is the Erdogan government itself that has justly and wisely realized that the key to the behavior of ethnic Kurds in Turkey depends on the degree to which Turkey allows this group to satisfy its cultural and historical identity within the confines of the Turkish Republic; and Erdogan's government has proved more liberal in this respect than its predecessors.
Equally, Turkey is entitled to be concerned about the way the Turkomen minority in north Iraq is going to be treated.
But what is utterly unacceptable and may jeopardize
the accession negotiation with the EU is what appears to be a
crude Turkish attempt to interfere in the internal matters of a neighboring
state. The status of Iraqi Kurdistan is a matter to be decided by the
Iraqi political system: Nobody is deluded that it is an easy issue,
or that it is clear what the developments in Iraqi will be, though the
elections give one a slight hope.
Turkey may be happy or unhappy about these developments and it has a legitimate right to ensure its own territorial integrity. But what will happen to Iraqi Kurdistan or Kirkuk is simply and bluntly none of its business within a European discourse. Unless, of course, it would like to totally undermine its quest for European Union membership by behaving according to 19th-century imperial norms. That would be a tragedy for Turkey, for the EU and for the Middle East.
3. - The Daily Star - "Turkey falls short of upholding minorities' rights":
ECRI report says gaps remain in legislation in regards to racism and racial discrimination
16 February 2005
Turkey has made some legislative progress in protecting the rights of Kurds and other minorities but lags well behind in applying those laws, a Council of Europe panel said Tuesday.
The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance said in a report that Turkey - which last December won approval to start long-term accession talks with the European Union - continues to have "some gaps in the Constitution and in criminal, civil and administrative law as regards action against racism and racial discrimination."
Kurds, which make up an estimated 20 percent of the 70-million-strong population, in particular "encounter major problems related to the armed conflict" in southeast Turkey, where Kurdish separatists have been active in recent decades, it said.
The commission recommended that Turkey's laws for minorities and immigrants be strengthened, that Kurdish problems be addressed, public awareness campaigns be initiated and the setting up of a national anti-racism body to oversee the initiatives.
The Council of Europe is a 46-nation organization that includes the EU's current 25 states plus non-EU countries such as Turkey. Members are required to adhere to the Council's human rights principles.
On Tuesday, at least 15 people were injured and some 20 others detained in Diyarbakir when police clashed with protesters demanding the easing of prison conditions for Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan.
The troubled demonstration was meant to mark the anniversary of Ocalan's capture in Kenya on Feb. 15, 1999.
"End the isolation," read banners held by a crowd of some 300 activists, referring to Ocalan's solitary confinement on a prison island in northwestern Turkey.
Police moved on the demonstrators, using truncheons and tear gas, when they refused to disperse after reading out a press statement and demanded to also stage a march and a sit-in.
The injured included also policemen hurt by stones hurled by the crowd.
Security measures in Diyarbakir, the central city of Turkey's mainly Kurdish southeast, were stepped up for Feb. 15, a day of traditional pro-Ocalan demonstrations.
Kurdish activists have long been calling for Ocalan's transfer to an ordinary jail, but their appeals have so far fallen on deaf ears in Ankara.
Ocalan, the leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), was condemned to death in June 1999, but his sentence was commuted to life in prison in 2001 following Turkey's abolition of capital punishment as part of reforms to embrace European Union norms.
The PKK waged a bloody armed campaign for Kurdish self-rule in southeast Turkey between 1984 and 1999, with the conflict claiming some 37,000 lives.
The rebels ended a five-year unilateral cease-fire with Ankara last June.
4. - AFP - "Niece of jailed Kurdish rebel leader Ocalan deported from France to Italy":
MARSEILLE / 16 February 2005
A niece of Abdullah Ocalan, the Kurdish rebel leader jailed in Turkey, was deported from France to Italy on Wednesday to pursue an asylum request there, French officials said.
Ayney Ocalan, 24, was escorted from Marseille to Rome after being ordered to report to the southern French city's main police station, her lawyer, Lionel Febbraro, told AFP.
She had arrived in Marseille in November last year but French authorities determined she could not stay in France until her asylum application was processed in Italy, he said.
Febbraro called his client's summons to the police station on Tuesday "a trap" and said he had lodged a legal complaint against the deportation as soon as she was detained.
If she wins the complaint, she may be allowed back into France, he explained.
Abdullah Ocalan, the leader of the rebel Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), was snatched by Turkish agents on February 15, 1999 as he left a Greek embassy in Kenya where he had taken refuge.
After being returned to Turkey, he was sentenced to death, but that was commuted to life imprisonment in 2002 when Turkey abolished capital punishment as part of its bid to join the European Union.
He is being held in solitary confinement on an island prison in northwest Turkey.
On Tuesday -- the sixth anniversary of Ocalan's capture -- hundreds of Kurds took to the streets of Marseille to call for Ocalan's release. Similar demonstrations took place in Turkey and elsewhere.
The PKK waged a bloody armed campaign for Kurdish self-rule in southeast Turkey between 1984 and 1999, with the conflict claiming some 37,000 lives.
5. - Kurdish Media - "Ezidi children are forced
to study Islam in Turkey":
The recent practice of the Turkish state against the Ezidis in Viransehir-Urfa is evidence of the Turanist barbarism experienced in history.
As we learned through the press, Ezidi children are forced to study Islam as a compulsory course in Oglakci village of Viransehir in Urfa province. This fact is the evidence to Turkish states assimilating policy against other ethnic and religious groups in general and Ezidis in particular.
Although the Turkish state has accepted the secularism principle in its constitution, it has been contradicting this principle since the establishment of this state and has been maintaining Ottoman Empires politics of forcing everyone to be Muslims.
The existence of these practices is the very proof of the Turkish states non-sincerity, ridiculousness, especially in a period of EU membership discussions.
The late Turkish intellectual Aziz Nesin, also mentioned this fact. This practice and mentality should be exposed and prevented through legal actions.
Under the Ottoman Empire, Ezidis were accepted as pagan, and were therefore deprived of all their legal rights and exposed to massacres. Turkish State is the inheritor of such a barbaric heritage and hasnt transformed at all but instead persistently not accepted Ezidism as a religion and therefore acted for killing and assimilating Ezidis. That is why; the number of Ezidis is so low in North Kurdistan.
The Turkish state is demanding many cultural rights for Turkish citizens who are living in Europe including religion, mother tongue courses etc. On the other hand, it is not allowing any rights for Kurds, Ezidi Kurds, Alevi Kurds or any Christian groups living within the borders of Turkey. So, how can the Turkish state integrate with the modern world?
The Turkish state cannot even stand with the freedom of nations within neighboring countries and is trying to maintain the status quo by making threats.
All these practices of the Turkish state proves that it is not only a colonialist power but also an actor of instability in the region.
Once more, we would like to thank to all our brothers-sisters from Kurdistan who helped in pronouncing/publicizing this fact and supported us by not leaving us alone.
We strongly condemn this recent practice of successors of the Ittihat and Terakki, who murdered millions of Armenians, Kurds and Ezidis from Kurdistan. We declare that we will not give up our democratic fight and call all sensitive-humanist people for collaboration.
6. - DemocraticUndergrund.com - "The Other Iraqi Conflict":
15 February 2005 / by Ken Sanders
Flying well below the radar of the mainstream media and America's collective consciousness is a conflict brewing in Iraq. It is not the conflict that so dominates our TV screens with endless tape loops of death and destruction. It is taking place in northern Iraq, in the Kurdish autonomous zone known as Kurdistan, and revolves around the future of Iraq's Kurdish population and control of the city of Kirkuk.
As it currently stands, this other Iraqi conflict seems capable of shattering any possible peaceful future in Iraq by thrusting the nation into civil war, possibly dragging the neighboring Turkey, Iran, and Syria into the fray.
Kurds are an ethnic minority in Iraq and make up approximately 20% of the population. Primarily located in the northern region of Iraq, the Kurds claim the city of Kirkuk as part of Kurdistan and historically theirs. (In the 1920 Treaty of Serves at the end of World War I, Kurds were promised their own state, to include Kirkuk, with the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire. That promise was denied three years later.) With proven oil reserves of 10 billion barrels, or 10% of Iraq's total, Kirkuk is Iraq's second largest oil region.
During his reign, Saddam Hussein sought to "Arabize" Kirkuk by forcibly displacing tens of thousands of Kurds and bringing in Arabs from other parts of the country. Those Kurds who were permitted to remain in Kirkuk were subjected to "nationality correction," whereby they had to change their ethnicity from Kurd to Arab.
Not surprisingly, therefore, following Saddam's removal, large numbers of displaced Kurds returned to Kurdistan generally and Kirkuk specifically in 2003 and 2004.
On the same day as Iraq's national elections, provincial elections took place in Iraq's Tamim province, which includes Kirkuk. Following the elections, Arabs and Turkmen in Kirkuk accused the Kurds of fixing the provincial elections by allegedly flooding Kirkuk on election day with Kurds from other parts of the country. An Arab provincial candidate, Abdel Rahman Munshid al-Assi, was quoted by the AFP as saying, "We are examining all options as we will not have a real presence on the provincial council."
The Kurds, of course, deny any wrongdoing and accuse all Arabs and Turkmen of failing to "understand democracy." Disturbingly, however, as evidenced by a recent column in Kurdish Media by Dhanjit Dhalliwal, there is at least a segment of the Kurdish community calling for the removal of all Arab settlers from Kirkuk.
According to Dhalliwal, the Kurds do not seek to ethnically cleanse Kirkuk since the Kurds have apparently shown great generosity in their willingness to compensate the Arab settlers for their displacement. In the next breath, and without specifying the terms of the proffered compensation, Dhalliwal reminds that the Arabs stood by and watched as Saddam expelled the Kurds and, therefore, are not mere innocent victims.
In other words: turn about is fair play. Taking it a step further, Dhalliwal argues that Arabs, Persians, and Turks have low morals and that until they "own up to a history of evil and admit guilt and wrong doings, persecution and violence will continue to follow the path of the Muslim world."
Dhalliwal is not an aberration among the Kurds. As reported on February 8, 2005 by Aaron Glantz of Inter Press Service, Jalal Talabani, the Kurdish candidate for president or prime minister of Iraq, has made clear that repatriation of all Arabs who settled in Kirkuk since 1975 is a non-negotiable point for a Kurdish-Shia governing coalition. Considering that the Kurds are expected to win between 50 and 70 seats of the 275-seat Iraqi Governing Council, it will be hard to ignore the Kurds' demands outright.
In fact, current Prime Minister Ayad Allawi's political party has reportedly struck a deal with the Kurds whereby the Kurds will support Allawi for Prime Minister and Allawi's party will support Talabani for President. Together, this Kurdish-Shia coalition is expected to be able to neutralize the coalition of Shiite factions backed by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.
Exacerbating these manifest racial, religious, and ethnic tensions are the concerns and posturing of Turkey. Immediately following Iraq's elections, Turkey's foreign minister, Abdullah Gal, not-so-subtly implied that if Iraq's Kurds tried to annex Kirkuk as part of Kurdistan, Turkey would be forced to respond, probably militarily. Indeed, the Turkish military makes no effort to conceal its plans to deploy troops into Kurdistan to "liberate" Kirkuk from the Kurds, if necessary.
The problem with a Kurdish Kirkuk, in Turkey's view, is manifold. First, until it was taken as part of the 1923 Lausanne Treaty, Kirkuk was within Turkey's borders. As such, Turkish nationalists still lay claim to Kirkuk as part of Turkey.
Second, the Turkmen in Iraq are considered ethnic brethren of Turkey. Turkey created and provides financial assistance to the Iraqi Turkomen Front, an organization which seeks to unify Turkomen by calling upon Turkey to intervene in Kirkuk and expel the Kurds.
Third, Turkey has its own problem of a rebellious Kurdish minority. In fact, since 1999, Turkish Kurds have used bases in Kurdistan to launch attacks inside Turkey. In response, Turkey has taken to crossing into Iraq to engage the Turkish Kurds.
Most ominously to Turkey, however, is its fear that with Kirkuk's oil reserves in their control, Iraq's Kurds could form a viable independent state. If Iraq's Kurds succeed in their quest for independence, Turkey fears, secession-minded Kurds in Turkey might become inspired. (Sharing Turkey's concerns in this regard are Iran and Syria, each with their own significant Kurdish populations.)
Turkey's concerns about an independent Kurdish state are not unfounded. On election day in Iraq, the Kurdistan Referendum Movement set up outside official polling paces in Kurdistan and polled Kurdish voters on the issue of an independent Kurdistan. According to a KRM press release on February 8, nearly 99% of those polled voted for independence. In Kirkuk, the result was nearly 100%.
The Kurdish (not Iraqi) flag flies throughout Kirkuk and all significant government offices are staffed with officers of the two major Kurdish political parties. Similarly, many of the signs in these governmental offices are written in Kurdish. The Kurdistan Regional Government controls the region and Baghdad law applies only to the extent permitted by the Kurdish Parliament. Arab units of the Iraqi military are barred from Kurdistan, as are Baghdad ministries.
In short, Kurds already consider themselves separate from Iraq and think of Kirkuk as theirs.
As recently noted in the New York Times by Peter Galbraith, former U.S. ambassador to Croatia, while defying exact comparison, the current situation in northern Iraq shares similarities with the dissolution of the former Yugoslavia. The U.S. and the international community long ignored the reality of Yugoslavia fracturing into separate ethnic states. By the time action was taken, it was too late to hold the country together and prevent civil war.
While the Kurdish situation in Iraq is not yet at crisis-level, Kurdish hunger for sovereignty will not be easily appeased. If the situation in Kurdistan, however, is not addressed peacefully and soon, someone, be it the Kurds or Turkey, will run out of patience and all hell could break loose.
7. - AP - "Turkey Wary As Kurds Assert Power in Iraq":
ISTANBUL / 16 February 2005 / by Louis Meixler
Turkey, home to the largest Kurdish minority in the world, is watching nervously as Kurds gain unprecedented political power in neighboring Iraq following major gains in that country's elections.
Opposition to Kurdish nationalism has been a cornerstone of Turkish policy for decades, out of fear that Turkish Kurds could be encouraged to press for independence. Some 12 million Kurds live in Turkey.
The Turkish military has battled Kurdish insurgents in southeastern Turkey since 1984, a fight that has left 37,000 dead, and Turkish officials have stressed that the country will not accept Kurdish independence in northern Iraq, which borders Turkey.
For Turkey, the election gains of the Iraqi Kurds - who took almost a quarter of the vote of national elections late last month and are demanding the presidency - have been stunning.
But official Turkish reaction has been largely subdued with some analysts saying the elections could end up promoting Iraqi stability rather than Kurdish independence.
Some officials "believe it may be better for Kurds to take significant posts in the government and integrate into a unified Iraq," said Sami Kohen, a columnist with the Milliyet newspaper. That, he said, could forestall any push for independence.
Part of the caution may be a result of the visit earlier this month of U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who stressed to Turkish leaders that the United States will not allow the breakup of Iraq.
"We are fully committed, fully committed, to a unified Iraq," Rice told reporters aboard her plane to Turkey. "We are making that message clear through all channels that we have in Iraq."
Turkey has repeatedly said that it will not tolerate the disintegration of neighboring Iraq and Kurdish independence, and military officers have spoken of the possibility of Turkey sending in troops if the country fell apart.
But invading a country that is already occupied by U.S. troops could be a disaster for Turkey, provoking a conflict with the country's best ally.
"The reality of it is that there is not too much that the Turks can do at this stage, unless they are willing to intervene militarily, which has immense consequences," said Bulent Aliriza, an analyst with the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.
And for the Americans, cooperating with the Iraqi Kurds is crucial. The Kurdish area is largely patrolled by pro-American Kurdish fighters, not U.S. troops, and is one of the few quiet areas of the country. The Kurds controlled an autonomous area of northern Iraq before the war and Kurdish fighters fought alongside U.S. troops during the battles.
"It seems the Turks are taking the Americans at their word that they will not allow the breakup of Iraq," Aliriza said.
"They have to rely on the Americans as the occupying power to prevent bad things from happening and that is where we are now, but how long will the honeymoon last?" he asked.
Of specific concern for Turkey is control of the oil-rich, ethnically divided city of Kirkuk.
A Kurdish-led alliance captured more than half of the seats in elections in the city and Turkey has charged that Kurds are flooding into Kirkuk, trying to change its ethnic balance.
8. - LA Weekly - "Dangerous Games":
Bahman Ghobadis Turtles Can Fly
17 February 2005 / by David Chute
From the opening shots of Bahman Ghobadis visionary Turtles Can Fly his third dramatic feature, after A Time for Drunken Horses (2000) and Marooned in Iraq (2002) it is apparent that we are in the hands of a master. His images have an instantly readable, almost surreal graphic clarity, even when they are roiling with more vibrant surface detail than we can possibly absorb which in this movie is almost always. In just a few quick, epic-scaled views of a refugee camp in Iraqi Kurdistan, Ghobadi opens up a new world for us, as a group of children struggle to plant a TV antenna on a dusty hilltop so that they can get the latest reports from CNN on the pending American invasion.
If Ghobadi is a visionary, hes also a missionary who seems to make movies chiefly in order to bear witness to the sufferings of his native Kurdistan, which wedged as it is right up against Turkey and between Iran and Iraq has been repeatedly kicked around, in his words, like a soccer ball among these big countries. Signature scenes in Turtles Can Fly include a few that are almost too awful to watch, like the rapt close-ups of an armless Kurdish war orphan defusing an abandoned land mine with his teeth. But Ghobadis genius seems supercharged rather than weighed down by his higher calling, and his imagery is so boilingly alive that we come away from it feeling exhilarated rather than depressed.
None of the protagonists looks much older than 14. The storys major source of energy is a boy known as Satellite (Soran Ebrahim), a classic finder/fixer/hustler of the sort who seems to crop up in every war zone. A motor-mouthed entrepreneur in Buddy Holly specs, he commands the army of children who swarm over the rolling scrub-brush hillsides hunting for mines and shell casings to be sold for scrap. He finally earns his geek nickname when he gets fed up with the antenna project, hauls a small heap of excavated metal to a crowded, illicit-looking street market, and trades it in for a real satellite dish. (Ghobadi alludes to the climate of oppression in prewar Iraq only once, in the skittishness of village elders who gather with their hookahs on an outdoor rug to watch cable news on the brand-new dish. When a prohibited channel possibly MTV is tuned in accidentally, they avert their gaze in unison.)
Into this teeming landscape of perpetual struggle wanders a trio of newcomers who are depicted not quite realistically but perhaps as they are perceived by the children, as mythic figures out of a folktale, wandering through the wasteland. The emaciated leader of the interlopers is the abovementioned armless boy (Hiresh Feysal Rahman), who, the children whisper, can predict the future; his mesmerizing sister Agrin (Avaz Latif), a suicidal wraith in the homespun robe of a native sorceress; and a beaming, blind 1-year-old who has an alarming habit of wandering off, gurgling, into the minefields unless he is kept on a tight leash, like a mischievous puppy.
Ghobadi included some discreet if harrowing shots of Kurdish victims of chemical attacks in his last movie, Marooned in Iraq its no surprise, then, that he does not regard the Americans as the bad guys in this distant-thunder account of the recent war. Indeed, shots of U.S. convoys in Turtles Can Fly have been staged by this extremely film-savvy director to resemble World War II newsreels of GIs marching into Italy. Although the impending conflict is described by one character as the end of the world, it is a distinctive feature of Ghobadis account that the war outside Kurdistan barely even impinges on the characters state of misery, for better or worse. (The occupation that follows is an anticlimax too, heralded, with Ghobadis characteristic gallows humor, by an announcement that would give any self-respecting mullah nightmares: The children are watching the prohibited channels with the American soldiers!) The worst that can be said of the Americans as they are depicted in Turtles Can Fly is that they arrived too late to save the children. This next generation of Kurds has already gone too far into the horror.